After building some structure for your Unit Study, you will have a better handle on what type of materials will work best with your students, place, and time.
Sky Chart–Put your main subject (era) in the center, then write related topics around drawing a line from the main subject to the related topic. Next do sub-topics of the topics in the same manner.
In this way we might start with the Civil War as our subject (era). Some related topics would be slavery, state rights, railroads, weapons, settling of the west, Indian affairs,…. From the topic of slavery, we might have the sub-topics Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Dred Scott, Underground Railroad, Emancipation Proclamation. Sub-sub-topics related to the Underground Railroad would be quilts that were used to give directions to those traveling on the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman who led many from slavery to freedom.
You will end up with much more than you can possibly cover. Using the sky chart helps you see how topics relate. It also allows the teacher to pick areas of study according to the resources she has available and with consideration of her students’ interests and abilities.
Resources–books: texts, bios., and historical novels, magazines, internet, movies, newspapers, other people
Resources can be bought, borrowed, and created. Have your students create a map and timeline as you study. This helps put things in “place” and relate happenings.
It is amazing how God brings information and resources to us when we are studying a topic.
Methods: match to subject and student
Try to discover your student’s weak areas, strong areas, and modality of learning. If you have a visual learner they might be glad to read a stack of biographies. A hands-on learner on the other hand might not. Use a student’s strong areas with his weaker means of learning. The hands-on learner needs to be challenged to read how Fort Clapsop was built and then build the fort accurately.
You will find your students retain more information the more they are involved with the information.
Cementing–making a lasting impression
Centering off a memorable book, person, movie, event.
When studying the Civil War, I borrowed a PBS series from the Public Library. Thinking this would give me some foundational information I began to watch the series to prepare for our study. My boys came in and watched the entire series. Even though it was “very dry” in a documentary-style presentation, they gained an incredible amount of information. This series gave us a framework on which to hang other information. Another family attended a Civil War Ball as part of their study.
Reading aloud a book is a great foundation. One family I know read the Diary of Anne Frank and then proceeded to experience the Holocaust. Using their upstairs, they re-enacted being in hiding during one day. They learned how stressful it was to “hide” all day.
A time-line helps relate the different events and people in a chronological order. This is easily done on a sheet of butcher paper with colored markers and pencils. Assign different colors for different countries or people. Be sure to include major inventions and world crises that changed history.
Ending event, presentation of what has been learned
This is the Medieval Feast, the re-enactment of a battle, or the staging of a debate over slavery. It should also include displays of written and artistic work: reports, newspaper articles written, copies of interviews done; maps, time-lines, artwork and perhaps a special meal. Oral presentations will give your student the opportunity to shine before others at the same time help him cement what he has learned. Don’t hesitate to invite Grandma or another homeschool family over and share in your grand finale. This can be as big as you desire. Don’t forget to take pictures!
After studying China we removed the table from the dining room. Placed a sheet of plywood on two picnic benches and put pillows around for a chinese dinner. After dinner with our invited guests, two other homeschool families, we watched a biographical movie on Hudson Taylor, an early missionary to China.
Remember, make learning memorable, design your lessons to meet your students and family’s needs, and give detailed instructions and directions to help your student succeed.